The man suspected of killing three people and attacking four more -- all while the victims were sleeping outside -- is an illegal immigrant who had previously been deported six times, according to The Washington Post.
Police arrested 47-year-old Ramon Escobar on Monday after identifying him through surveillance footage from three of his attacks on homeless men who were sleeping outside of buildings in downtown Los Angeles.
Escobar is also possibly connected to the disappearance of his aunt and uncle, Dina and Rogelio, in Houston, where Ramon resided before driving to California shortly after they went missing. The two disappeared in late August, and Dina's vehicle was found abandoned on a beach in Galveston, Texas, appearing to have been set on fire.
According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Escobar was first ordered removed from the country in 1988, and was actually deported to El Salvador six times between 1997 and 2011.
Escobar appealed his immigration case after illegal re-entering the U.S. most recently in 2016, and was released from ICE custody in January 2017 after a judge granted his appeal.
Escobar's alleged crimes
According to police, Escobar had a pattern of targeting people sleeping outside, beating them with a blunt object, then going through their belongings looking for items of value.
Most of his victims were homeless people sleeping on beaches or outside buildings throughout southern California. One of the men he killed, Steven Ray Cruze, was not homeless but had decided to sleep under the Santa Monica Pier following an overnight fishing trip.
“He is a violent predator,” Los Angeles Police Capt. William Hayes said at a news conference Tuesday. “He’s preying on innocent people. … In most of these cases, the victims were asleep and he went up and did it.”
Of the four victims who survived, three of them are in critical condition, with one of those three in a coma.
How they caught him
After finding another homeless man who had been attacked and suffered head trauma early Monday morning, an officer recognized Escobar from surveillance footage. Escobar is bowlegged and walks with a noticeable posture. He did not resist when he was arrested.
The attacks had become a source of significant fear among the homeless community in Los Angeles, and Escobar's capture has brought relief.
“It’s not just that people are being murdered," said Mel Tillekeratne, who runs the homeless aid organization Shower of Hope, to the Los Angeles Times. "You hear of people being bludgeoned to death on city sidewalks. It breaks your heart.”
Escobar will be charged with three counts of murder and four counts of attempted murder, while Houston authorities will investigate his potential involvement in the disappearance of his aunt and uncle.